The R&A - Working for Golf

The R&A pays tribute to Peter Thomson

One of golf’s most decorated champions, Peter Thomson AO CBE, has sadly passed away, aged 88.

Thomson won The Open on five occasions, ranking alongside James Braid, JH Taylor and latterly, Tom Watson, with only Harry Vardon having lifted the famous Claret Jug more times with six wins.

Martin Slumbers, Chief Executive of The R&A, said, “It is with great sadness that we have awoken to the news of the passing of Peter Thomson.

“Peter was a true gentleman and will be forever remembered throughout the world of golf as one of the great champions of our wonderful sport. He was a distinguished Honorary Member of The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews and will be sorely missed by all of us at The R&A. Our thoughts are with his family at this very sad time.

"Peter gave me a number of very interesting and valuable thoughts on the game, how it has developed and where it is going which demonstrated his genuine interest and love of golf.

“He was one of the most decorated and celebrated Champion Golfers in the history of The Open, winning the Championship five times in total and becoming the only golfer of the 20th century to lift the Claret Jug on three consecutive occasions between 1954 and 1956.

“Our deepest condolences go out to Peter’s wife, Mary, and his four children, Deidre, Peta-Ann, Fiona and Andrew.”

Peter Thomson lifted the Claret Jug on five occasions between 1954 and 1965.
Peter Thomson lifted the Claret Jug on five occasions between 1954 and 1965.

His fellow five-time Champion Golfer of the Year Tom Watson said, “The world of golf has sadly lost arguably the greatest links player in history, Australian Peter Thomson. His record of winning five Open Championships combined with his finishing in The Open’s top 10 finishers an incredible 18 out of 21 years (1951-71) will go down in the annals of golf’s greatest achievements. Our heartfelt condolences go out to his beloved wife Mary. We will miss him.”

His first appearance in The Open came in 1951 at Royal Portrush where he finished sixth and went on to produce arguably the finest stretch of results in the history of the Championship. In the next seven years, he was either first or second, winning on four occasions: Royal Birkdale in 1954, St Andrews in 1955, Royal Liverpool in 1956 and Royal Lytham & St Annes in 1958.

Thomson went onto win a fifth time in 1965, defeating Christy O’Connor Snr by two strokes to claim his second Championship victory at Royal Birkdale.

His 89 professional wins came all around the world including six PGA TOUR titles, one European Tour title and a victory on the Japan Golf Tour. He also won the Australian Open three times and the New Zealand Open on eight occasions.

Thomson also enjoyed a successful senior career, winning nine times on the Senior PGA TOUR in 1985 to finish first on the money list. His last tournament victory came at the 1988 British PGA Seniors Championship.

He was president of the Australian PGA from 1962 to 1994 and was a winning non-playing captain of the international team that defeated the United States in the 1998 Presidents Cup at Royal Melbourne.

Thomson smiles for a photo on the Swilican Bridge at the Champion Golfers' Challenge ahead of the 144th Open Championship
Thomson smiles for a photo on the Swilken Bridge at the Champion Golfers' Challenge ahead of the 144th Open Championship.

Following his retirement from playing, he became involved in golf course design and was responsible for the design of over 100 venues in Australia, Asia, Europe and the Middle East.

Thomson was only one of a small number of Australians to be inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 1988.

In 1982, he was elected an honorary member of The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews, where he played an active role.  

Born on 23 August 1929 in Melbourne, he was married to Mary and had four children; Diana, Andrew, Peta-Ann and Fiona.